Jessica Sarah Rinland (SMACT ’18)

Jessica Sarah Rinland, Final Review 2018. Photo: Ostin Zarse
ACT at MIT

Final Review, Spring 2018
Jessica Sarah Rinland

1.“Archaeologists are probably not aware how much they owe to worms for the preservation of many ancient objects. Archaeology is still a subject that is actually carried out in the realm of earthworms. Their burrows and galleries form and reform the matrix surrounding the harder materials from which we deduce whole cultures.”1

2. Both humans and non-humans conserve, either through subconscious or conscious necessity. Time is integral to this process—embodying the past and collaborating to secure a future.

3. In my experience of filming animals (including humans), I have encountered what I call a mutual interruption. For instance, when filming in the wetlands of Northern Argentina, I could get as close to smelling the hair of a capybara without a flinch, but when wanting to capture film of the animal quietly bathing in a puddle—as soon as I switched on my fairly noisy Bolex 16mm camera — she would look around confusingly or immediately scuttle away. There was something about this reaction that incurred a sense of intimacy with the creature—I was interrupting her just as she was interrupting me.

4. When I was a child, Analia took me to the Zoológico de Buenos Aires. The zoo was conceived in 1875 by Argentine president, Domingo Sarmiento. The first director of the zoo, Eduardo Holmberg structured the environment so that the animals would be housed in buildings that reflected their countries of origin. For example, a replica of a Hindu temple was built for Asian elephants, housing the first one ever to be born in a zoo. These replicas were built as an attempt to conserve the imagined original home of the elephants.

5. There is an interesting paradox between the fragility of the elephant population and the longevity of its ivory tusk which is so durable that if left lying in a puddle under a Mopane tree for ten thousand years, it would eventually fossilise.

6. There are two lives to a worked object: its transformation from raw material, a conception by the artist’s or maker’s hand, allowing it to breathe in; and its slow outward breath when it is exposed and entered into the museum. Conservation is there to disguise the perishability of an object, to conceal its mortality and at the same time to reveal its “other side”, presenting different types of knowledge from it.

7. Due to the length and curved shape of the mold, during the pouring out of the excess slip, the last fifteen centimeters of the tip of the tusk collapsed due to compressed air so, we pierced a hole where it was flattening, near the tip of the mold through the hardened edges of the slip, to let air in while pouring the slip out. When the excess liquid trickled out, the tusk inhaled through its new hole—an extended gasp for air that allowed it to stay whole.

8. “Perhaps one of the oldest field tests for differentiating vegetable ivory from real ivory is the addition of sulfuric acid to the item to be examined. Sulfuric acid applied to vegetable ivory causes an irreversible pink colouring in about twelve minutes. Genuine ivory should not stain. CAUTION: Due to the irreversible nature of this test, only a minute dot of acid should be applied to the object in question.”2

9 . The ceramic tusk replica imbued with history —including details of the original ivory tusk; 3D printer lines; five-part ridges from the plaster mould joins; its breathing hole; dirt marks and breakages cleaned and glued together with hide animal glue—will be donated to the NHM in a dark green metal box lined with black plastazote foam and covered in a transparent conservation grade plastic bag. I stipulate that it never be exhibited but that if any person were to request viewing it they would not have to supply reasoning but would have immediate access not only to viewing the ceramic replica, but the original tusk and everything in the storage space that surrounds it.

10. This is a form of exhibition—encouraging public display of storage space and items within these private spaces that have not had the privilege of being chosen and that are kept under plastic bags, holding their breath indefinitely.

 

1. Charles Darwin, The Formation of Vegetable Mould: Through the Action of Worms with Obervation on their Habitats Mould (John Murray, 1904), Chapter IV.

2. Espinoza, Edgard O. and Mann, Mary-Jacque Identification Guide for Ivory and Ivory Substitutes In Co-operation with CITES, 1999.